After two winter storm systems hit North Carolina this week, the N.C. High School Athletic Association will allow games on Sunday, if they are necessary to complete the first round of the state basketball playoffs.
The winter weather forced school systems to close and games to be postponed. For several teams, including a few in Mecklenburg County, first-round games that were supposed to be played Monday will now be played Saturday. The weather also forced cancellation of all three Mecklenburg County schools conference basketball tournaments.
Many public-school teams have not played in more than two weeks. The N.C. Independent Schools asked state quarterfinal teams to come to Asheville Wednesday afternoon ahead of a snow storm that dumped up to 6 inches in the Asheville area. The NCISAA completed quarterfinal play Thursday and will hold semifinal play Friday afternoon and Friday night.
The picture for the state’s public schools is much different.
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The NCHSAA reported Friday morning that 13 of 128 boys’ first-round games had been completed by Thursday night. There were 20 of 128 girls’ first-round games completed.
The NCHSAA said if schools cannot complete first-round games on Friday, they could be played Saturday, urging teams to play as early as possible to avoid hazardous travel conditions in areas of the state still dealing with the effects of Wednesday’s snowstorm.
The NCHSAA is also allowing teams to complete first-round games on Sunday, but participating schools must contact the association for permission. No practice is allowed on Sunday and no second-round games may be played Sunday. The association said all first-round games must be completed by Sunday; all second-round games by Monday, and all third-round games by Tuesday.
The N.C. Western Regionals, originally scheduled to start Tuesday, will be delayed until Thursday, March 5. There will be four games played Thursday, four on Friday, March 6 and then regional championships will be played Saturday, March 7. The NCHSAA state championship games are scheduled for March 14.
“These extraordinary circumstances have caused us to make significant adjustments in the NCHSAA basketball playoffs,” said Davis Whitfield, commissioner of the NCHSAA. “We sincerely appreciate the cooperation of superintendents, principals and our member schools in working with us to complete the basketball playoffs.”
For some schools, this new schedule could mean playing as many as five playoff games in seven days. For traveling teams that keep winning, it will mean several consecutive days of long bus rides, too.
“We’re all in the same boat,” said Butler coach Myron Lowery. “We haven’t played in two weeks. This is your classic ‘circumstances beyond our control.’ It is what it is. We couldn’t practice when there’s no school. We haven’t played in two weeks. I’m a little concerned about timing and rhythm. I know kids have gone out and shot and played at the Y, but that’s nowhere near the level of a practice or a game. You wonder what your team’s legs will be like in the fourth quarter.”
Lowery said he hasn’t seen a scheduled quite as condensed as this.
“In my 25 years,” Lowery said, “I’ve not seen anything like this. I was real disappointed our (Southwestern 4A) conference tournament got canceled, even if it would not have counted for the state tournament (the wintry weather would’ve forced a Saturday finish, after the NCHSAA had seeded the playoffs).
“We’re in this to play games. We want to compete. As far as the state playoff schedule now, it’s not as bad for me because all of my (sectional) games are at home. I don’t feel quite as much pain as other schools who go two hours one way and turn around and go one hour each way the next day. So getting the No. 2 seed (and three home sectional games) has been a little advantage for us.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
Revised N.C. Western Regional Schedule in Winston-Salem
Thursday, March 5: 3A boys at Lawrence Joel Coliseum (4, 5:30 p.m.); 1A boys at Joel Coliseum Annex (7, 8:30 p.m.)
Friday, March 6: 4A boys at Joel Coliseum (4, 5:30 p.m.); 2A boys at Joel Coliseum Annex (7, 8:30 p.m.)
Saturday, March 7: 3A boys at Coliseum (noon); 1A boys at Annex (2 p.m.); 4A boys at Coliseum (4 p.m.); 2A boys at Annex (6 p.m.)
Thursday, March 5: 2A girls at Joel Coliseum Annex (4, 5:30 p.m.); 4A girls at Joel Coliseum (7, 8:30 p.m.)
Friday, March 6: 1A girls at Joel Coliseum Annex (4, 5:30 p.m.); 3A girls at Joel Coliseum (7, 8:30 p.m.)
Saturday, March 7: 2A regional final at Annex (noon); 2A regional final at Coliseum (2 p.m.); 1A regional final at Annex (4 p.m.); 3A regional final at Coliseum (6 p.m.)